WADSWORTH – The South Texas Project nuclear power plant in Wadsworth has plans in place as Hurricane Harvey creeps towards the Texas Gulf Coast. Up to 250 employees will endure Hurricane Harvey from inside the plant.
At press time, both units at the nuclear power facility continue to operate at full power as Hurricane Harvey approaches.
STP’s Corporate Communications and External Affairs manager Buddy Eller anticipates as many as members of a pre-planned storm crew to hunker down inside the plant and closely monitor it for any damage.
“For the past several days, before Harvey even became a tropical storm, crews have been walking the site to either remove or tie down any loose material that could become airborne and cause damage,” Eller said. “The team has a very thorough checklist to go through meticulously to prepare for a possible weather impact.”
Eller said the storm crew is first allowed to go home and take care of what they need to there and ensure their families are taken care of first before returning to the plant well in advance of landfall.
“They don’t need to be driving through horrible weather and putting themselves at risk,” he said. “The safety of our employees is our number one priority.
In the event the storm’s winds breach the 73 mile-per-hour barrier, Eller says their internal procedures dictate that the safety team, consisting of essential personnel only, would shut down both reactors completely.
“The only reason we’d consider powering them back up, even partially, would be if asked to do so by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Eller said. “With any hurricane, there are likely to be power transmission issues in getting it where it needs to go, so before we turned anything back on.”
The plant site is located 10 miles inland and at an elevation of 29 feet, well above the reach of even a Category 5 storm surge. The plant was designed with watertight buildings and doors to keep emergency electric power and cooling systems fully functional. All buildings housing safety equipment are flood-proof to an elevation of at least 41 feet above mean sea level.
Alfred Sanchez, STP’s resident inspector from the NRC, has two additional inspectors being sent in from the Region 4 office in Arlington who entered the plant Thursday evening prepared to stay and monitor all actions and plan conditions throughout the weekend if necessary. Sanchez and another inspector are on standby prepared to come in and relieve inspectors as necessary, assuming they can make it to the site safely.
“Our role changes during major weather events that could affect the site and in emergency situations involving the site from inspection to one of cooperation to ensure reactor and personnel safety,” Sanchez said.